The Australian Cattle Dog: Queensland Heeler

Pet Type


May 13, 2020

Centuries ago, when designer breeds were not even conceived and people bred their dogs for work rather than appearance and attitude, there were a plethora of jobs that dogs could take on.

Dogs could be watchdogs for piers, boats, farmland, and homes. Dogs could be hunting dogs of both game and vermin. Some dogs may watch the farmland, while other dogs may guard houses. Intelligent dogs would take on police work, and later on would become search and rescue dogs. While many of these jobs still exist for dogs today, such as watchdogs and police dogs, there are some dog jobs that aren’t even thought about that much anymore. This includes the cattle dog. If you haven’t heard of the cattle dog, one of the more popular cattle dogs out there is the Queensland heeler.

This particular cattle dog breed goes by a fair number of names. They are known as the Australian Cattle Dog, the Blue Heeler, and the Queensland Heeler, among others. This just goes to show that they are a very well-known and well-liked breed of dog. Whether you are looking for a unique dog in your home, or you want to look for a dog that is capable of reliable farmwork, you can rest assured knowing that the Queensland heeler will be able to get jobs done.

Where Did the Queensland Heeler Originate From?

The Australian cattle dog has its roots set deep into Australia’s history, dating as far back as when the continent was first being settled by the British. During this time, it is known that both livestock and farm dogs were brought along in boats to the new country. With the amount of space that Australia could offer, farmers began taking an interest in cattle as well as the common sheep.

Back then, there were very little, if any, land restrictions and fences surrounding large farms. This meant that cattle would often wander as they grazed, moving far away from their homes. Typical sheepdogs weren’t up to the task of herding cows though, both because of the tenacity and stubbornness of cows and because of the terrain of Australia. This is where cattle dogs came into play.

Cattle dogs were bred specifically to be tough enough to withstand the terrain of Australia’s farmlands, strong enough to withstand the scorching heat of the desert, and smart enough to control and herd cattle that had strayed too far and became uncontrollable. This process is believed to have begun with the native Australian Dingo, as this was a dog that already could withstand everything Australia had to offer. All it needed was the natural herding capabilities of a sheepdog. Unfortunately, the dingo bloodline was too strong in these first attempts and the offspring would consume the sheep.

From here, experiments began with seeing just how well variations of these dogs could herd cattle, while still doing the job effectively, efficiently, and without killing any of the livestock. It also became apparent that these dogs wouldn’t try to herd horses, as this led to problems in the earlier versions of the Australian cattle dog. A couple centuries passed and a combination was created, leading to the determined and strong Queensland heeler that is now known as the Australian cattle dog. 

What Does the Queensland Heeler Look Like?

Closely related to the native Dingo, these dogs carry quite a bit of their appearance. They are relatively tall, compact dogs that show off how lean and muscular they are through their short fur. They stand between 17 and 20 inches tall and typically weigh between 35 and 50 pounds. There isn’t much variation between weight and height in females and males. These dogs have a long, pointed snout to go with tall, pointed ears. Their eyes are wide and alert, ready to leap into action when needed. Their tails are long and fluffy and often hang downward.

Their coats are sleek and usually short, coming in a number of different colors. These coats can be sandy, ruddy, grey, brown, and black. There are also any number of color patterns that can come with these colors. Some dogs have spots around their body and face, while other dogs may have a more mottled pattern depending on their ancestry.

How Does the Queensland Heeler Behave?

As cattle dogs, these dogs are incredibly driven, active, and confident. These dogs can, and will, defend their territory if something they do not like crosses into it. They are somewhat wary around strangers, taking a bit of time to warm up to anyone who isn’t the dog’s immediate family. These dogs are smart and enjoy playing with toys that stimulate their mind. That is, as long as these working dogs aren’t out in the field. With its driven personality and its nature to herd animals, these dogs are happiest outside on the farm where they can run around to their hearts’ content, herding cattle all along the way.

Training these dogs can be troublesome, as they are stubborn and confident. They believe that they are the alpha dog of their families, and it is up to you as the owner to prove to the dog that you are the one in charge. This can take a bit of time and patience, but once you have properly trained your dog, you will have a very, very loyal companion with you for a long time.

What Kind of Care Does the Queensland Heeler Need?

These dogs may not need a lot of grooming, but they are considered high-maintenance dogs in terms of energy. When it comes to grooming, all you really need to do is brush the dog on a weekly basis to remove any dead or loose hairs from the coat. Unless your dog gets into a fight or into a dust bath, bathing should be situational and occasional. This is because short-haired dogs are the easiest to groom and look after.

Energy-wise, on the other hand, these dogs are very high maintenance. Their energy is seemingly endless and it will take a lot to tucker your dog out if it is not herding cattle most of the day. Obedience training, agility courses, workouts, and jogging sessions are the best way to get your dog’s energy out. They need to be stimulated one way or another, either through interactive games or through activity. These dogs prefer to have a “task” to perform, even if it’s as simple as the ones given for obedience courses. If you cannot entertain your dog enough, it will become destructive.

What Kind of Health Does the Queensland Heeler Have? 

As with just about any purebred dog, the Queensland heeler will always have the potential to develop hereditary illnesses. This is something you will need to speak to your breeder about so that you know what to be prepared for when you adopt your first dog.

Typically, these dogs have issues with the bones, the liver, and the eyes. It is important to get your dog tested regularly at your local vet, as many of these conditions can quickly become life threatening if they are left untreated for too long. When it is well cared for, these dogs can live a hearty life between 13 and 15 years.